Why every startup should be adding integrations in 2023
Imagine the following scenario: you’re a product owner at a startup that sells software services to other businesses (B2B). The market landscape is growing increasingly competitive as alternatives enter or pivot into your category. You need to navigate a stream of requests from across the business – and your customers – while pushing forward a bloated product roadmap with limited development resources.
At the same time, your engineering team is trying to keep pace with feature requests while committing time to the necessary work to make sure critical customer facing systems and specifically the integrations between them are maintained and up to date.
Do you cut your roadmap losses, or search for an alternative path for your integration needs? We think the latter.
Integrations are a top priority on software roadmaps this year because they bring enormous business value, including increased customer acquisition and adoption, and the development of integrations can now be streamlined with Unified APIs. Read on for examples of how startups have improved their competitiveness using integrations while maintaining focus on their core product objectives.
The Business Value of Integrations
When we talk about integrations, we’re broadly referring to connecting tools, applications, or data through application programming interfaces (APIs). Software integrations through APIs are incredibly useful to running a business (our friends at SaaStr have found that public SaaS companies have an average of 350 integrations, although there are category leaders with far more than that). From an operational perspective, leveraging integrations could look like syncing information from disparate databases, automating workflows between internal applications, or using a Unified API to outsource and aggregate engineering work required to bridge multiple external systems. Integrations can also unlock growth opportunities – we’ve seen a variety of ways our customers have used integrations to acquire more customers, retain and renew existing ones, open up new markets, and increase product value.
Acquire More Customers
Integrations are increasingly common purchase criteria and are table stakes for some categories of software like spend management and compliance. Gartner finds that 20% of software buyers list available integrations as a top criteria in purchasing software. Integrations create a more complete solution for buyers, increasing win rates and differentiation vis-a-vis competitors.
- Assembly - revenue payback in 2 weeks
- Avenue - 100% of prospects ask about integrations
- Navan, a Series G-funded travel management platform, added 30+ HRIS integrations to unblock deals and customer requests. Read more.
"Developing against 1 API has dramatically expedited our ability to ship integrations to users and open up more market share." Josh Valdez, Engineering Manager, Gem
Improve Customer Adoption and Retention
Integrations don't just help software companies acquire new customers, they also have beneficial effects on customer adoption and retention. Gartner finds that integration availability (or lack thereof) and issues are involved in 36% of software replacement.
- Ramp, a Series C-funded spend management platform, accelerates onboarding of their customers' new employees using HRIS integrations, increasing how fast they get their Ramp accounts and the total spend flowing through their platform. Read more.
- PivotCX, a Seed funded platform for candidate communication, increased the time to onboard recruiters onto their platform from weeks to hours with ATS integrations. Read more.
- Opal, a Series A-funded identity platform, uses HRIS to automate user provisioning and deprovisioning to their app, improving adoption and reducing software admin effort. Read more.
- Guru, a Series C-funded knowledge management platform, uses HRIS integrations to power features, such as profile pages, that drive user engagement and long-term account retention.
Expand to New Markets
Integrations can be crucial to market expansion, as customers in new geographies or market segments have different workflows and tools they work with. Software such as accounting and HRIS is often very geography-specific, meaning that expansion in Europe or Asia requires new integrations. Moving upmarket to enterprise customers often involves new customer requirements, especially for integrations like ATS, CRM, or ticketing. Completely new products serving new buyers also can benefit from a rethink of your integration strategy.
Integrations make your product more valuable, in cases to a point where you can monetize the integrations that you offer. You can choose to upsell customers to higher priced subscriptions that include integrations or individually price integrations as an add-on or as part of a marketplace (e.g. Hubspot). For tips on monetizing integrations, check out our integrations monetization guide.
Related: Common SaaS integration challenges
How Using a Unified API Can Make Adding Integrations a Breeze
Offering integrations to customers has traditionally meant a large engineering investment for the initial build and ongoing maintenance. Unified APIs today offer all of the advantages of adding new integrations to your product, with a faster time to market, an ability to keep R&D teams focused on core innovation, and much lower costs at scale.
Speed Up Time to Market
Unified APIs, by offering a single API to add dozens of SaaS integrations of a similar type, dramatically speed up the delivery of integrations. Startup teams can meet tight deadlines to launch integrations, check off an entire list of customer requests from their roadmap, and keep their product velocity high even with tighter budgets and fewer engineers.
- Causal, a Series A-funded business planning platform, added 22 integrations to accounting, HR, and CRM systems within 6 weeks. Read more about Causal's time to market.
- Vendr, a Series B-funded SaaS management platform, launched three categories of integrations on an accelerated time frame.
- Ravio, a Seed-stage compensation benchmarking platform, was able to launch out of stealth with integrations already included in their product offering.
“Our team was able to add 24 integrations in 4 weeks - not the 8 months that had been expected. Easy access to enabling integrations allowed us to collect feedback early on and figure out how we want to move forward.” Molly Liu, Product Manager, Ramp
Maintain Focus on Innovation
In addition to making integrations available faster, Unified APIs dramatically reduce the engineering resources you need. Oftentimes each integration can take a week to several months to build. With a Unified API, adding several dozen integrations takes a developer on average two weeks all together. This makes it possible to keep scarce engineering resources focused on higher priority roadmap items.
- Omnea, a Seed stage procurement orchestration product, offers accounting integrations while keeping their small engineering team focused on their roadmap.
"Rather than spending the time and money to build and support 25+ integrations, we seamlessly connect to a single API that handles everything for us." Miles Hobby, Co-Founder, Agora (acquired by Payscale)
Scale Integrations at Low Cost
Once integrations are built, keeping the data flowing and resolving customer issues can become a major time sink. Unified APIs automate error detection and resolution, include comprehensive logs for debugging, and offer a broad set of tools to quickly triage customer tickets. These integrations management features reduce initial build costs, long term maintenance, and ongoing support costs.
- Drata, a Series C-funded compliance automation platform, offers dozens of ticketing and HRIS integrations to their customers, without expending engineering resources to maintain and support the integrations long-term. Read more.
It’s old news that businesses have trended towards using an expanding suite of software to solve internal issues and use cases for their customers. Built on top of this software is a growing need to connect these systems through a set of integrations that allows them to work in concert. As we’ve explored, integrations can make teams more efficient by offloading time-consuming engineering work while also providing exceptional business value through increased customer acquisition, product value and adoption, and opening up new markets.